Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Have White Voters Been Taken for Granted?

Have white voters been taken for granted? That’s the basic thesis of a recent piece from Politico’s John Hohmann, who argues that if Mitt Romney wins, it will be proof that “white voters still matter.” This, we suppose, is true. Mitt Romney is winning by historic margins among white voters, and Barack Obama's re-election depends on his ability to win over at least 40 percent of them.

The Last Word on Richard Mourdock

Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock was already an extremist, not to mention not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed, before he offered up his opinion on abortion and rape the other day. But I'm sure that even as he scrambles to contain the damage from his remarks, he can't quite understand what all the fuss is about. He expressed an opinion that is, among many millions of religious Americans, totally mundane: that God loves every baby and blastocyst, and therefore even a pregnancy that results from rape is good in His eyes. This episode reveals a couple of important things that are worth reiterating before we move on to the next campaign controversy, about both abortion and religion.

Peeking In on Canada's Election

Last year, Canada's Liberals—the party of Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chrétien, the party that held power for most of the 20th century—suffered a crushing electoral defeat. Its representation in the House of Commons was cut by more than half, and for the first time in its history, the Liberal Party fell to third place in the number of seats, behind Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives and the more leftist New Democratic Party (NDP). Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff immediately announced that he would step down, triggering a leadership campaign that officially begins this November. The early favorite is Trudeau's son Justin, but a number of other candidates have entered the race. We interviewed one of them, Alex Burton, a prosecutor and party activist from Vancouver, about his campaign to lead the Liberals, the differences between American and Canadian politics, and his views on his neighbors to the south.

Paul Ryan's Other Opponent

(Flickr/Rob Zerban for Congress)

Paul Ryan's congressional district should be prime swing territory for Democrats. The party held the seat from the 1970s through the mid '90s, and it switches its allegiances during presidential years, voting for Bush in '04 but flipping to Obama in '08. Yet for some reason Democrats haven't bothered lately to field a serious opponent against Ryan. Ryan—the boyish-faced Rage Against the Machine rocker who wears a backwards baseball cap to workout—might look like he just stepped out his college frat house before joining Mitt Romney on the Republican national ticket, but he's actually be in office since 1998, with nary a threat to his seat. This time, Rob Zerban just might be up to the task. Zerban, who formerly owned a catering business in the area, is a staunch liberal, supporting the Congressional Progressive Caucus's budget and wanting to shift the health care system to a single-payer one, what he terms "Medicare for all." There's reason for him to be hopeful. Ryan's draconian budget hasn't played well in a district full of seniors who rely on Social Security and Medicare. Zerban raised nearly $2 million through the end of September, and is running a ad against Ryan's Medicare proposals, calling them stingy. Zerban's campaign released an internal poll in early September that put him just 8-points behind Ryan; striking distance.

Fri, Oct. 26 Electoral Vote Predictor

Are We Heading toward a Split Decision?

The closer we get to election day—and it is only 12 days away now—the more likely it becomes that the voters render a split decision with Mitt Romney winning the popular vote and Barack Obama winning the electoral college. A new WaPo/ABC national poll of likely voters puts Romney ahead 50 percent to 47 percent. This is the first time Romney has hit 50 percent in this poll. Both sides are enthusiastic, with 95 percent of the Obama supporters and 93 percent of the Romney supporters being somewhat or very enthusiastic. Noteworthy is that 52 percent of the respondents think Obama will win vs. 40 percent who think Romney will win.

Yesterday's Gallup tracking poll also shows Romney ahead 50 percent to 47 percent, but this represents a 4-point gain for Obama in this poll in a week. Romney led by 7 points in Gallup's tracking poll a week ago. While it is difficult to compare results from different pollsters due to different methodologies, Gallup's results suggest that Romney's momentum has stopped and maybe been reversed.

National polls aside, Obama maintains a small but steady lead in the electoral college. In the past two weeks in Ohio, nine polls have had Obama ahead and only one had Romney ahead. Three polls were tied. As we and everybody else has said a hundred times, without Ohio, it is nearly impossible for Romney to win, even if he gets every last vote in the Deep South and a large popular-vote margin. In Nevada, Obama has had leads of at least 2 points in all five polls in the past two weeks. Another key state is Virginia. There in the last two weeks Obama led in five polls and trailed in four. So a plausible outcome is that Romney wins the popular vote but Obama wins the states the Democrats have won the past five elections, plus Ohio, New Mexico, and Nevada, for a total of 271 electoral votes. Virginia would be icing on the cake. With such a narrow victory, Obama would have no mandate at all and we would have four more years of gridlock. Of course, an equally narrow Romney victory coupled with Democratic control of the Senate (thanks to the politics of rape), would yield a similar result.

And Best Supporting Zinger Goes To...

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Right, so the 2012 presidential debates are done with at last—triggering, as predictably as natural disasters produce fundamentalist sermons, a stew of grousing in Wonkland about their shallowness, triviality, and failure to articulate much of substance about whatever issues made the cut. Everybody had a laundry list of topics that never got broached at all (global warming and torture were just two of the big ones). But from my unwonky perspective, complaints of this nature reflect an either earnest or wilful inability to recognize the nature of the beast. All that counts—to the electorate, to the campaigns, and even to the outcome on November 6, which means to history—is whether they were good TV.

Mail In Your Ballot, Cross Your Fingers

(Flickr/Nadya Peek/Jenn Vargas)

Ohio's Republican secretary of state, Jon Husted, has been under fire now for months from Democrats. They’re angry, particularly, about his moves to limit early voting hours across the state—especially those on the weekend before the election. Poor and minority voters rely on the expanded hours. Black churches have used the last Sunday before election day to bring voters to the polls; low-income voters often have inflexible work schedules and childcare demands at home. After a lengthy court battle, Husted has now authorized county election boards to offer hours in the three days before election day. But he did limit early voting hours in the weeks before, with fewer evening hours and no weekend hours.

Central Florida's Corridor of Power

(Flickr/Kissimmee Convention & Visitors Bureau/Express Monorail)

If you want to know what’s different about Florida, both in general and in this election cycle, just ask Jose Lopez. The organizer and leader of a laundry workers’ union that’s part of the Service Employees International Union, Lopez has been walking precincts as part of SEIU’s campaign to re-elect President Obama since mid-summer. One day, as he was chatting with an elderly man on his doorstep, his canvassing partner interrupted and asked Lopez, “How much do you know about snakes?” A rather large snake, it seems, had slithered between Lopez’s legs.

The elderly gentleman, who, like hundreds of thousands of new Florida voters, had migrated from Puerto Rico to the Orlando metropolitan area, excused himself, returned carrying a machete and proceeded to hack the snake not entirely to death. “The machete was too dull,” says Lopez, shaking his head. “He ended up just beating that poor snake to death with that thing.”

Calling Bullshit

So it seems that President Obama got a little salty in an interview Rolling Stone will publish tomorrow. According to Politico, the prez says of Mitt Romney, “You know, kids have good instincts. They look at the other guy and say, ‘Well, that’s a bullshitter, I can tell.’” The high-pitched sound you can hear now in the distance? It’s the keening wail of shocked, dismayed, flabbergasted, and mortally offended Republicans—mixed with the low murmur of apology from Team Obama.

Is the Democratic Party Too Diverse?

Writing for The Daily Beast, John Avalon makes an odd complaint about the Obama campaign and the Democratic Party writ large—that they're focusing too much on attracting non-white voters. To be fair, the bulk of the column is devoted to explaining the dangers of a strategy that relies on high turnout and support from African Americans and Latinos; if Obama underperforms with those voters in states like Colorado and Virginia, he will have considerably narrowed his path to reelection.

Virginia Is Still a Toss-Up—and Romney Should Be Worried

In my dispatch from Virginia Beach, I wrote that the state was a toss-up: At the time, President Obama was tied with Mitt Romney at 47.4 percent, down from 48.5 percent before the first presidential debate. In recent days, however, Obama’s star in the commonwealth has brightened, if only by a little bit. The last ten polls, stretching back to the middle of the month, after the vice presidential debate, show a small move in Obama’s direction:

Why Obama Has an Ad Advantage

One thing overlooked in discussions of campaign fundraising is who controls the money. Over the summer, Team Romney raised enormous sums, but large portions of it were either for affiliated super PACs or the Republican National Committee.

The upside for the Romney campaign is that they had many different ways of raising money. But there was a big downside as well: Television ads—one of the largest line items for any campaign—were more expensive as a result. Under federal election law, campaign committees qualify for lower advertising rates than either party committees or independent groups. In practical terms, this makes ad spending more expensive for Romney than Obama.

Did the Tea Party Win or Lose?

Is the Tea Party dead and gone? To a great degree the answer is yes. There are no longer any Republicans with national ambitions, and precious few with even local ambitions, who will proclaim themselves Tea Partiers (Mitt Romney was smart enough to see this coming, so he carefully avoided saying "I'm a Tea Partier" on tape, though he certainly expressed his agreement with their views). The movement has come to be associated with extremism and recklessness, particularly after Tea Partiers in Congress forced a showdown over the debt limit that let to a downgrading of the nation's credit rating. The Tea Party has also become synonymous with a particular brand of Republican politician, those ideologues so dumb and uninformed they barely realize how crazy their views are. This started in 2010 with the likes of Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell, continued through the briefly successful presidential candidacy of Michele Bachmann, and can now be seen with Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock.

But does that mean the Tea Party was a failure? E. J. Dionne says it was, and the evidence can be seen in the Romney campaign...

News Flash: This Was Always a Close Election

(Flickr/dinodressed2)

From the beginning, this presidential campaign has been about discontent with the incumbent versus distrust of the challenger, and about which would trump the other less than two weeks from now on Election Day. Clearly Governor Mitt Romney’s shambles of a summer—during which unease grew over a wealthy nihilist disinclined to reveal anything credible about his finances or beliefs who is contemptuous of half the country at the other end of the economic and social spectrum—was offset for some voters by 90 minutes in early October when the Republican Party nominee forcefully berated a debate opponent who dithered between bemusement and narcolepsy. To what extent in that first debate the President of the United States’ performance sucked all light and gravity out of the surrounding cosmos, as breathless punditry would have it, is now irrelevant. I remain struck by the fact that, three weeks later, no one can remember a single brilliant thing spoken that evening by Romney or a single calamitous thing said by Barack Obama, but then I’m still of the view that Pluto might be a planet. The famous John Fordian formulation about legend displacing truth is more apt in politics than anywhere else.

Todd Akin: Warrior for the Right

(AP Photo/Mike Derer)

Todd Akin, the Republican challenger for Claire McCaskill’s U.S. Senate seat representing Missouri, has made himself a national figure so far this election season by declaring that women can’t get pregnant from “legitimate rape” and claiming that abortion clinics routinely perform abortions on women who aren’t actually pregnant. But what’s garnered less attention, until this week, has been Akin’s history of not just saying but also doing disturbing things. His history shows a lifelong dedication to a misogynist right-wing ideology that flirts with using force to get its way when persuasion fails.

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